Christmas Island (Kiritimati), 1941. Detail. Survey map by N. J. Hill. Digital cartographic collection, Research Services.

Kiribati Language Week 2020

Mauri! Welcome and hello to our Kiribati1 Language Week (Sunday 12 July-Saturday 18 July).

Kiribati was also known as the Gilbert Islands when it was a British protectorate (1892) and colony (1916) until it gained independence in 1979 as the Republic of Kiribati. It is home to around 116,300 people on 33 coral atolls in the central Pacific Ocean and includes the South Pacific’s largest marine reserve. There are over 2,100 people of Kiribati ethnicity living in New Zealand2.

Kiribati has a long history and close relationship with New Zealand and is a leading voice within the Pacific region and in the United Nations on climate change issues and marine conservation. Enjoy these selected resources on Kiribati language, culture and identity, including our relationships and place in the Pacific, as you celebrate Kiribati Language Week.

An introduction to research resources

Get started with exploring Te Tumu Herenga’s vast repository of knowledge with these resources:

Tip: Adjust your keyword searches to yield alternative results e.g., Kiribati OR Gilbert Islands.

TV and Radio playlist

Explore our new media playlist of Kiribati customs and traditional stories, as well as documentaries highlighting the impact of climate change induced sea-level rise on this nation.

Watch the playlist

Special Collections materials

Tabuaeran bush scene, 1903. Record 1228. Cuthbert, Robert G. papers. MSS & Archives 2003/6, Special Collections.

Tabuaeran bush scene, 1903. Record 1228. Cuthbert, Robert G. papers. MSS & Archives 2003/6, Special Collections.

  • View early-20th century photographs taken on Tabuaeran (Fanning Island) within the online Cuthbert Collection.
  • Delve into rare Kiribati language books, including an 1863 hymnal and an 1888 Gilbertese-French vocabulary. These rare books are in the New Zealand Glass Case.
  • Special Collections also holds thousands of unique, primary source records and spans decades of British colonial administration in Kiribati and neighbouring Tuvalu in the Western Pacific Archives

These sources are included in Search Everything on the homepage.

1941 survey plan

Christmas Island (Kiritimati), 1941. Survey map by N. J. Hill. Digital cartographic collection, Research Services.

Christmas Island (Kiritimati), 1941. Survey map by N. J. Hill. Digital cartographic collection, Research Services.

Step back in time with this 1941 survey plan of <Kiritimati3 from our digital Map Collection. Kiritimati or Christmas Island, comprises of over 70% of the total land area of Kiribati’s 33 Pacific atoll islands. The map was produced by New Zealander N. J. Hill, who was a Hydrographic Surveyor and Member of the NZ Institute of Surveyors.

In the detail view, at the start of this article, note the incorporation of local language names: Manulu Lagoon, Motu Upua, Motu Tabu and Motu Tuba.

Tekeraoi / Best wishes!

Compiled by Te Tumu Herenga’s Pacific Language Weeks Group, with special contributions by Hine Busby, Simon Esling and Igor Drecki, Research Services, Jo Birks, Special Collections, and William Hamill, Media Services.

1 Kiribati is pronounced Kiribas, as the ‘ti’ is pronounced ‘s’.

2 New Zealand Census 2013.

3 Kiritimati is pronounced Kirismas.

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